tv Charlie Rose PBS February 13, 2012 12:00pm-1:00pm PST
>> welcome to our program, this evening three books, we begin with charles murray, the book is called "coming apart: the state of white america from 1960 to 2010" david brooks of "the new york times" said i will be shocked if there is another book this year that so spellingly described the most important trends in american society. >> i'm in search of a way to get across to people that we had a civic culture that wasn't the same for all classes but it was really similar across upper middle class and working class. and that has disappeared. so we now have the upper-- upper middle class and working class to separate on some key core behaviors and values. and that's big news because this country used to be everybody bragged that they were in the middle class. nobody wanted to be in the upper-class. that's all changed.
>> rose: we cocoinin w wthth robertrtaais, the authorf e e ar indexex, set in the world of high finance and hedge funds. >> the fear index which is what the book is called and what it's based around, is this standard & poor's volatility index which measures really anxiety in the markets and the traders call the fear index. >> we conclude this evening with katherine boo, author of "behind the beautiful forevers", a book about the people in one mumbai slum. >> since i right about a-- write about a kid, a 13-year-old scavenger, he collects gar beige he finds in the street and sells it by the kilo. and what the kid like that you can't stick a tape recorder in his face and say-- . >> rose: who are you. >> who are you and what dow believe. but you know, and what is your philosophy. but he has one. it just takes a lot of time seeing him work, talking to him, getting to know the choices he makes to see what that is. and then when you do see it
additional funding provided by these funders. and by bloomberg a provider of. from our studios in new york captioning sponsored by rose communications charles murray is here, the wh brady scholar at the american enterprise institute perhaps best known as owe co-author of the book the bell curve examined the relationship between race, intelligence and social why economic status. he has since become a strong and polarize voice on the issue of social inequality. his latest book is you will caed coming part, the state of white america from 1960 to 2010. it details a growing separation between america's elite and the working class.
"new york times" columnist david brooks has said i'll be shocked if there is another book this year that is so compellingly describes the most important trends in american society. i'm pleased to have charles murray back at this table, welcome. >> it's my great pleasure to be back. >> 17 years have passed since you were here. >> since we have had a civilized conversation on the bell kufb. >> rose: thank you very much. let's just talk about how you set out to right write this because it turns some ideas on their head and the choices you made. i'm thinking of the kennedy assassination. what is it you wanted us, what were you in search of. >> i'm in search of a way to get across to people that we had a civic culture that wasn't the same for all classes but it was really similar across upper middle class and working class. and that has disappeared so we now have the upper middle class and working class just separating on some key core behaviors and values.
and that's big news because this country used to be everybody bragged that they were in the middle class. nobody wanted to be in the upper-class. that's all changed. >> but in fact that takes the title, the state of white america, 1960 do 2010. >> that was to focus attention. because if you talk about social problems, the natural reaction i have the same reaction and say well, but the statistics are driven in part by the fact that there's more problems in the black community in this regard or latino community. and by limiting the numbers just to nonlatino white, i have a way of saying to my readers, look, there are no easy excuses for these trends. we have to come to grips with them. >> you talk about the upper-class and upper middle class. you believe they have changed from the 60s. >> yeah. >> rose: to 2012. >> let's just go back and think about the upper middle class in 1960. a lot of people in the upper middle class didn't have a college degree. even if you lived in an elite neighborhood, you know,
the north shore of chicago or scarce dale or-- . >> rose: what you call superzips. >> superzips, only about a quarter of the people in those elite neighborhoods had college degrees. and the median income in these elite neighborhoods was well under $100,000 in today's buy pog we are. so you know, they were rich neighborhoods, by the standards of the time. but they are very diverse in their educational and economic composition. that's changed, so you take those same neighborhoods in 2010, median income is up around 163,000 dollars. the percentage of college graduates is up to about 67% for 26% and beyond that the most elite neighborhoods are also disproportionately filled with people from harvard, princeton, yale, standford, duke, the elite universities so there's that add on and for charlie, they are forming larger and larger clusters so you have the superzips all connected
to each other and people can live their lives would coming in contact with anybody outside them. >> rose: you also seem to suggest, i want to phrase this carefully, that they are a custodian of the values that the middle class used to have and take pride in. >> here's the dissonance in the book, if you were. because i have a lot of problems with the isolation of the new upper-class. but if you take the upper middle class as a whole, they're staying married. still very high percentages. despite the rising divorce rate in the country as a whole. >> rose: where it is different from the middle class or lower middle class. >> if you want to name the most stunning statistic in the book i think it's this. that in 1960, 84% of white working class adults were married compared to about 94% of upper middle class whites. you know, it was absolutely the norm in both places. as of 2010 you are down to about 84% for the white upper middle class, but that's still real high. in the white working class
it's down to 48% of adult its 30 to 49 who are married. about a third of all males in that age group have never been married. that's, that's the collapse of a central cultural institution in one particular part of america. >> rose: you also have suggested that america's ability to have a sustaining economy and other issues is in part because of these values. >> i rephrase it slightly to say our civic culture depended very much on those values. and look, the founders were to a man unanimous saying this constitution won't work with just any kind of people. they have to possess certain kinds of characteristics and the ones that were central for all of them were the family and relige crossity which they said you've got to have and also american plain honest as they future and indust ree usous which
was the defining characteristic of americans so, what i am really saying is on these kind of things which the founders rightly said were important for a constitutional limited government like we have, on those we have the working class which is falling away from that. which means you can't really run this country that way. >> rose: i want to come back to what is happening in the middle class and why. but for the upper middle class and the other class, some people call them-- the elite i have in mind is not just the upper middle class. the upper middle class i define as people who work in managerial positions or professional positions. the elite are the people who are the most successful in that group. and if you want to talk about the narrow elite, that is the people who run the country, in effect. whether it's politics or the culture or the economy. and they are elites. and they are distinctive from the upper middle class as a whole. >> rose: but you seem to
have an admiring quality about them, an admiring vision about them whereas newt gingrich wants to be on the consistent attack against them. >> the elite is part of the upper middle class or in the top part of it. but they have been doing a pretty good job of practicing a lot of these virtues. that's good. i'm in favor of that. but the elite is also increasingly ignorant of the rest of america and isolated from them. and i'm thinking particularly of those who are now in the second and third generations. i believe you grew newspaper a small town, for example. i grew newspaper a town of 15,000. we have gone along way from our home towns over the course of our lives. but we still carry with us the experience that we had there. our kids have not had that same experience. i don't know about yours but with a great many children of successful people, they have always been in this bubble, this upper middle class bubble that is the only life they know.
they don't know, they don't know what the rest of america is like in a very literal way. >> rose: a personal note, you moved to a very small town, in the suburb of washington but you moved to a small town that is an hour or two away. >> we did that 22 years ago. >> why did you do that? >> in part for the very reasons other people like me should think about moving somewhere else. we had children. my two eldest daughters had grown-up in washington, gone to national cathedral school, very elite school. our two younger children we took with us out to burkett hesville, maryland, and they went to the local public schools. and we moved to that place in large part because i didn't want my younger two kids to grow up surrounded by other children just like them. >> rose: so you wanted die versusity. >> yeah, i wanted socioeconomic diversity. racial diverse sit fine too. but you know f are you in a neighborhood which has a fair number of blacks and
asians but the blacks and asians are all lawyers and physicians and c.e.o.s, you are losing a kind of diversity that i think is very important. >> if you wanted your kids to grow up in a diverse world, and you did it by taking the initiative of moving to a small town, you know, would you suggest that government ought to some how make rules and regulations that would, in a sense, try to demand that of its citizens? >> it just makes me shutter to think of the government trying to do that. >> rose: i know it does. it is what some might call social engineering. >> you know, this book is not directed toward policy solutions by the government. it is directed toward starting a conversation. because actually when i've talked to other parents in the elite about these issues as i have been writing the book, i get a really good response. you know, i hear them saying to me, you know, i have been worrying about this stuff myself.
and i think there is a lot of potential out there for people to rethink how they live their lives, and that is good enough for me. i would much rather have them do that then somebody say oh, i've got this bright idea. >> i understand that. but at the same time i want to take note of the fact that you want to be in the front row of applauding diversity for your kids. >> yeah. >> rose: you want your kids to have that experience and all of us should want our kids to have that experience. >> yeah, and if you do that, it's not that you are sacrificing yourself for the good of society, you're doing something that's good for your kid. >> pros will will-- proselytize these values for everybody and do it more. >> i want us to be like the elite in victor kwan england in the last half of the 19th century who took a rapidly industrializing country and they basically prop gandized the entire english population into buying into their moral values, which were pretty good moral values. now this doesn't mean preaching in the streets. let me give you a classic
example-- example. births to unmarried women. within the social sciences people who study the data and this includes liberal academics as well as conservative academics understand that kids do much less well than those, for reasons that go beyond economics, even after you control for economics. the kids still don't do as well because in fact the two parent family works better. it is-- it is imperor missable for journalists or for politicians or for people who talk about this issue to ever say that. they, and the reason is obvious. we don't want to sound like we're bad guys. we think of all the women who are trying very hard to raise their kids, often time does doing a wonderful job of it. we don't want to dump on them. we don't want to dump on them. but the fact is you have a situation which causes damage to kids in the long run which should be part of the open public dialogue. >> rose: what would you do about that? >> well, if i'm a journalist
and if i'm writing about what's good and bad from children i'm going to mention that kind of thing. what i do, when dido write about births to single women, i'm to the going to be value neutral on t not on not on a morallistic grounding, but because we know, the facts are this is not good for kids. that's just one example out of many where right now nonjudgementalism about personal behaviors rules and very few journalists routinely flout that rule. >> rose: but there is a contradiction. the journalists don't flout the rule, but are you saying they don't write enough about the difficulty you come-- if you do in other words, are you saying journalists don't flout the rules in their personal live but they don't recognize what it does or write enough about it, what it does to those who have to grow up. >> i sort of think about it as if the upper middle class
sees ways that work for their own lives, and by work for their own lives i'm not talking about how much money they make. they work for producing satisfying lives. well, you know what, if good marriages are that valuable for achieving a satisfying life for myself, isn't it okay for me to consider that this is a good way for everybody to think about living their lives? isn't it okay-- . > rose: but it's also okay for people not to choose to do that. >> it's okay for people not to choose to do that, but if we say oh, well, you know, you want to get married, you don't want to get married there are a few facts about the happiness of people who get married and people who don't. these are statistical tendencies. there are lots of exceptions. >> rose: i'm seeing a lot of stories about the happiness of single women who are not married. >> i know. and i have lots of, we have lots of friends, my wife and i do who are single women who are happy and they're not married.
and i will also tell you that if you go down to the working class communities and ask women why they aren't getting married, they'll say who wants to marry these losers. they can't hold on to jobs. you can't rely on them, you know what is the point of me take on another child by getting married. and i understand all that. i will also say to utah, again looking at the social science of this, that when you look at self-reported happiness and when you look at marital status, the importance of marriage as a source of deep satisfactions in life is incontestable. >> i'm aware of those studies that suggest that. there is also this. you chose as the divide, the assassination of john f. kennedy. >> uh-huh. >> rose: because you believe that things happened differently because lyndon johnson was president and not john f. kennedy. >> that's not why i chose it but we can come back to that. i chose it because the day before john f. kennedy's assassination was sort of a good place to take as the baseline for a culture that was pretty well in place.
and things changed dramatically after that. i have very little in this book about causes. and there's a reason for that you know, i wrote a book called losing ground which argued and i still believe that the reforms of the 60s jump-started a lot of the trends that i defloor. -- deplore. but we are where we are right now. and that toothpaste is not put back in the tube just by reversing a couple of policies here and there. so i run it in this book to address people without don't agree with me politically but who are going to be sympathetic to the nature of the problem. whether i succeeded or not we will find out. >> okay but so what is the impact of lyndon johnson being president? >> lots of rules got changed during the 1960s. lots of signals were changed. lots of incentives were changed and they applied especially to young people
and have made it profitable to do things in the short term which were disastrous in the long-term. those incentives i think were significant in getting trends like out of wed lock births, crime, men who are no long never the labor force, i think was very important in all of those. then after that got started, you got to a self-reinforcing loop so once you don't have one pregnant girl in the high school class but you have 20 prell nant-- pregnant girls the stigma goes away. once you have many guys living off their girlfriends or living off their parents, then all at once the stigma that used to be associated was not working if you were a guy, that goes away and then if goes worse and worse. >> so back to your argument, you believe these qualities of indust ree usness and-- march and relige crossity and integrity, that the upper middle class ought to proselytize about that. i mean dow believe that they
if they proselytize about that that the middle class is willing to listen and are going to be accepting of-- that message? >> well, you know this country has a history of what are called great awakenings where the culture changed really quickly. now those were religious in nature, the three or four great awakenings we've had. but the country has, it's as if there are problems whose time has come. and there is a very large response. i think that the potential for that is out there. i think that in the change, changing attitudes towards marriage, i don't know about you, but among my friends over the last 20 years, i've seen an increasingly serious attitude-- attitude taken towards marriage. you don't get divorced at the drop of a hat. dow work-- it's different from the 1970s and even the 1980s. i they i that spirituality is starting to make a comeback in the upper middle class, where people are
saying, you know, maybe i ought to be more attentive to a spiritual dimension. >> rose: or maybe they are missing something for their life or looking for something. >> could be baby boomers getting old and worrying about their mortality. >> rose: we had a decision today in california as we taped this, on same sex marriage. >> uh-huh. >> rose: increasing number of people are in favor of same sex marriage. and have great respect for the relationship of those marriages. do you? >> yeah. >> rose: dow. >> and i have changed my mind on this one. because i really was against the idea of using the word marriage to describe same-sex unions. i still have problems with that. the fact is that my wife and i know a variety of same-sex couples. and they behave-- . >> rose: they represent the qualities you describe add admirable. >> they have great marriages. and so at this point i say well, you know, you're an old fogey charles but maybe on this one you have to give a little ground.
>> rose: how else have you changed since those controversy years of the early '90s? >> well, actually, riding the bell curve-- writing the bell curve itself made me aware of how much this luck of the draw, you know, because you do not earn your iq. it comes with the package whether it's genes or family background. you don't earn it. >> rose: it is a combination t is a combination. >> it is increasingly important, you know, people that have certain kinds of academic skills are worth more in the marketplace than they used to be. that's purely the luck of the draw. >> rose: both in and where you were born. >> and the family into which you were born. but what drives me crazy is when people want to give people who have gotten the short end of the stick advantages by giving them more money. because this to me is an article not just of faith but it's sort of the core of
everything, i believe. people at a very wide range of ability have the capacity to live morally awe ton mum live, productive lives, lives that are deeply as satisfying for the same reasons as lives are as deeply satisfying for people with iqs of 130. there is no difference in that score. but to do it they have to have access to what i call the institutions of meaning. and i think those institutions of meaning are marriage and community and vocation, and faith. you don't have to tap into all four of those. >> rose: and the faith does not have to be of any one kind. >> no, no, but these are-- these are the domains within which human beings work out satisfying lives. >> rose: is it true around the world. >> i believe so, but you know i stick pretty close to the united states in this regard. so what i want is a society in which people still have access to those satisfactions. and the problem that we face is not economic, they don't
make enough money, that's not it. it is that we have denuded those domains of-- source of satisfaction for them in ways we haven't denuded them forth upper middle class. >> rose: thank you, mr. murray, my pleasure to you have back. robert harris is here, the best selling author as you know, some of his most well-known books include fatherland, enigma and pompeii, with roman polanski he could wrote ghost rider, his latest is the fear index a thriller in hedge funds and high finance. his brother-in-law the writer nick hornby has written of him, despite his enormous success and benefits that have come from it, he writes because he is a wrar and has no choice. he has a curiosity about the world and how it works and that won't go away no matter how many copies he sells. mi pleased to have robert harris back at this table. so this was your brother-in-law, nick hornsby, you've married to his sister. does that ring true to you, a curiosity that is never
satisfied. >> i think that is truchlt he has got to be nice to me, he comes to me every christmas. but yeah, know, i mean you know, its-- writing is not a job, it's a way of life. i mean it's a vocation, an attitude of looking at the world, actually. >> rose: and dow find novels more interesting, stimulating, creative than journalism? >> i do, to be honest. i was a journalist. and i used to enjoy writing nonfiction books but i wrote a book about the hitler diaries, forgery and then i wanted to write a book about what the world might have been like if hitler won. i was going do nonfiction but found i couldn't make it work unless i invented characters and a story. and from that point on i carried on writing novels. >> rose: so most of the things you write in your novels you believe either are or could be true? >> yes. i like to be, i'm the opposite of magic real stism-- realism. i like to be fact-based.
i have to believe it's true in my own mind and if i can do that, hopefully i can convince the reader. >> rose: what lead to you this story in the fear index? >> it has been quite a long process. i got very interested in writing a book that would be a kind of new 1984. and i thought that what was interesting, the threat to us was not to, not state nis more but corporations using new technology. and this back there 1999 i read bill gates's book business at the speed of thought. where he talked about companies developing a digital nervous. it is and really sort of almost becoming independent of the human beings who were workinging there. the company would be smart. and intelligent. and i liked that idea. and i played around with it for some years. and then finally i realized the best place to set this book would be the financial markets where computers really are now dominant. i mean three quarters of the shares traded in new york are trade by computers. >> rose: yeah. and also where you have wall street hiring some of the smartest mathmatician and
physicists coming out of the best institutions, best educational institutions in the world. >> yeah that took me completely by surprise. i didn't know that. one of the hedge funds, big hedge funds that helped me, they won't recruit anyone that doesn't have a ph.d in the sciences or math metics, reviewed in the top 15%, pier group. these are formidable mathematicians. >> they are creating algorithms and creating a way to develop a model that will-- that will somehow predict and be able to read the future of markets. >> yes. essentially they are very sophisticated pieces of computer software and they are based on what's happened in the past being a good indicator of what is going to happen in the future. and some of these algorithms are enormously successful. in my book i thought i was branching into science fiction where i had them using tools of human behavioral economics. but actually they do do that
i now discovered. that's common. >> rose: and a lot of people have written books about how to measure the human behavior impact. >> yeah. >> rose: on kmok-- on markets and also on macroeconomics. >> yeah. and i took the notion of fear as being a key human driving force. i mean one of the cuan tative analysts told me that they love a state of panic in the markets because when the panic, human beings behave in a very predictable way. the machines don't panic. they made a lot of money, for instance n 2008 this hedge fund. >> so when there's fear, there is selling and they have already sold short, they make a ton of money. >> yeah, exactly. and the fear index which is what the book is called and what it's based around, is this standard & poor's volatility index which measures, really, anxiety in the markets and the traders call the fear index. and so i thought well why don't i build an entire
algorithm around this one set of data. >> rose: what did you call it, x? >> it's called vix algorithm 4. >> rose: what does it do? >> what does it do? it scours the internet for incidences of fear related words and sentiment of fear. and based on that, it predicts the like lee movements in the market. and needless to say, it being a novell t goes out of control. and the book is set over ot course of one day. >> rose: and one day -- >> the background of the book is the 6th of may -- 10, the famous flash crash, won a thousand points run of the do you. >> rose: who is alex hoffman. >> alex hoffman is a scientist, american, worked at cern, worked on the large hedron collide never switzerland and in con jix-- conjunction with this smooth and suave english banker he goes into the financial markets.
they set up a hedge fund called hoffman. >> rose: there seems to be a series of things happening to mr. hoffman. >> yes, i mean i wanted to play around with this idea of fear. and the way in which actually the world seems much more fearful these days because of the, i think because of the internet and because of the way we're all wired up now, and the panic of ripples of fear spread across the world. >> rose: there are forces at work that we never imagined. what has arisen of asia, in terms of the world's relationship or what it might be. >> the more information it has it seems the more paranoid one becomes so the internet and the financial markets act like a kind of giant echo chamber. and i wanted to embody this in this character of hoffman so the book opens with him asleep in his $60 million mansion on the shores of lake geneva and then an intruder breaks in. >> rose: what's interesting, is why does he live in geneva because he wants to have easy access to all
those smart people who might be working on the collider. >> yes. that's part of the reason and also the tax. the tax arrangement force hedge fund in geneva are that basically you pay a rate of 8.8%. so you know f you are superrich. >> -- and frankenstein, which is another motivation. >> rose: what is franken stein's impact on this. >> well, you know, the trouble with financial novels is wall street in the city of london, as backdrops, i don't think they are good for readers. there is something offputting about them. but when the hedge fund were helping they said they were relocated to geneva not just for the mountain scenery but to avoid the tax rates in britain, then that unlocked the book for me after more than a decade of thinking about it because i realized that geneva being the home of frankenstein and the gothic novel, the way i could approach this story was to write a modern gothic
novel. a gothic novel being about, really, the hinterland between the human and the other. >> rose: so enter frankenstein. >> exactly. and there are lots of nods in the novel to the whole frankenstein myth. >> rose: back to the intruder, so hoffman can't figure out how any intruder could have gotten in because he thought he had a fail-safe mechanism. >> fantastic security. he goes to the hospital, he has taken a severe knock on the head and that's just the beginning of his problems. he's also sent a book, arrives anonymously. a very expensive book, a $10,000 first edition of charles darwin's, the emotions in man and animals. and this is relevant to his program which he thinks is highly secretment so now his paranoia is increasing. >> rose: so you have financials and darwin and soon we'll find room for or win, will we not. >> yes, they're all in there, yes. and i had a lot of fun writing t i must say. because you know, it's a great tradition, the gothic.
you can do all sorts of things in it. >> rose: how did orwell influence the book. >> orwell influnlsed it-- . >> rose: because of "1984" >> because of that, but you asked me why i wrote fiction. orwell's animal farm and 1984, he said he wanted to make political writing into an art, by which i think he meant using the source of the imagination, creation of characters, or brilliant essays but the reason he is really remembered is for the use of imagination. and taking political items like totalitarianism and what went wrong in russia with stalin, children are taught. >> rose: so in your novel here, is the machine, the algorithm becoming a monster? >> yes, and i wanted, you know to sort of embody in a character in a nofl, which is the hedge fund, the fear i think a lot of us feel that the financial markets are out of control. i mean they're giant. they operated at enormous
speed. you know, the average length of time that i a share is held in the united states is now 22 seconds. >> rose: is that right? >> yes. i men this is sort of cracked up on us without us really knowing. >> rose: are you a good friend of peter mountain one of the few people that guide tony blair to the pry ministership. in the weeks leading up to i guess the first time that labor won and where it blair became prime minister, you were close to all these people. >> yes. >> rose: and you had high hopes for the new prime minister. >> yes. i found myself through accident of circumstands, i knew peter very well. being his main strategist. and then i became friends with tony blair and i was invited to travel, and really practically as a member of his family during the last couple of weeks of the general election. i was standing next to him when the exit polls told him he was going win by i a landslide so i was with him
all the time. and i'm very grateful to him, although i may have a strange way of showing it. because -- >> some would say. >> not many journalists and almost no novelists ever get quite that close. >> rose: i want to talk about what you did but has he ever confrontedded you about this? >> not personally, no, not directly. >> how has he confronted you indirectly. >> well, quotes in newspapers, i don't think he was so much bothered by the novell, maybe the film. >> the film the ghostwriter. >> yes. >> rose: because it suggested that his wife was somehow connected to the cia and on and on. >> yeah. she seems to have seen the joke because olivia williams who played the blair like figure approached her at a party and asked her about it. and she said she was very easy with the whole thing because shed's got to sleep with ewing mcgreggor and pierce bros nunn. >> rose: sounds exactly plix blair, doesn't it. so the ghostwriter, what were you trying to say in the ghost rider, the film
that you then wrote the script with roman polanski. >> i pose, i was interested, really, in the human situation of someone whose's lost power. and the role of a writer who has no voice but is simply provides other people's memories and words for them. and the meeting of these two characters, first and foremost is what fascinated me. and i had wanted to write such a book for a long time but i couldn't quite find either the politician or story but when i started to hear that tony blair might face plos cution for war crimes, then for rendition because britian is a signatory. >> rose: you agreed with harold pinter's assessment of him, did you not. >> unrepeatable. >> rose: no he said it right here at this table. >> de really. >> rose: oh yes. >> oh, right. i think, you know, tony blair's very popular politician in america. >> rose: but not so. >> but not so much in
britainment and i think there is a tragedy about his premiership. >> rose: would it have been true if the iraq war were not part of his legnes legness-- legacy. we have been remembered differently. >> he would have because the iraq war sucked all of his energy and attention. >> rose: even though he argues to this day that he made moral choices and choices that he believed, that it was not in any way something he did other than what he thought was the right thing to do. >> i would agree with that. i would agree with that but unfortunately it was the wrong thing to do. and britain is a relatively small power these days. and it's not very often that british prime ministers can influence events. but it is possible if tony blair had not supported the iraq war, even george bush would not have felt able, really to go ahead with it where no ally at all, with even britain saying don't do it. so blair played a pivotal role. >> rose: blair gave a better defense in his chicago speech than bush ever did. >> yes, he was articulate man no one can deny that he
had many qualities. but i feel in the end that history is to the going to be that kind to him. that he had opportunities, and on the two great things of the time, the foreign policy on iraq and the regulation of the financial sector, that these two things went wrong on his watch. >> rose: some people argue that this is one of those circumstances, the movie ghostwriter which lots of political-- political people loved, as you know, takes place in which this former prime minister goes to write his memoirs and he hires a ghostwriter, and the previous ghostwriter had been murdered. >> uh-huh. >> rose: so he begins to see this stuff unraveling and discovers that the wife and all of that is what the ghostwriter is about. but there this tony blair like character. i mean is tony blair adam or is adam tony blair? >> well, it's a bit more, i hope fictional than that. i mean i didn't set out to make the adam lang fictional prime minister exprime minister a model of tony blair because principles i left out ot religious faith which is very strong in tony
blair. and you couldn't really-- . >> rose: not connected to the decisions he said he made, not the i told him but it gave him a moral base for looking at the world. >> exactly. which can be quite dangerous, actually, i think if a politician believes that they are acting in accordance with-- i'm not saying they will sort of-- but slightly doing god's work. and the world is good there is good and evil. that is a dangerous situation because you know f are you two sub sec sect-- subjective in what you do then i think you can make big mistakes but you can turn around and say that i was doing what i thought was right. but that's not good enough. >> rose: many people think there is one of those examples where people think the movie is as good if knot better than the book. >> well, thanks very much. >> rose: just telling it you. i'm telling it you. another swunt english patient. >> yeah. >> rose: and michael will tell you that. >> yes. >> rose: because this rarely happens. >> i would concede, you know,
roman is a genius. >> rose: polanski. >> yeah, he is a brilliant director. and i did get the opportunity, because hi only just finished the move told go over it and correct some things and sharpen it with him. so i think, actually i think there is some justice in what you say. >> rose: well, do you believe it? >> i believe they have different qualities. but i think that roman gave it a force and an edge and a drive. and i think he's brilliant at bleak endings. i think the bleak ending is very good. >> rose: i think you should be pleased. nobody is saying the book wasn't any good. they loved the book. they were just saying the filmmaker using different tools took it to a higher place. >> i that i that vate. i would say he is perhaps one of the mors intelligent man that i have ever met or had dealings with. i think he is incredibly clever. he speaks five lan gajs. but the things he's been through and seen, to have seen the nazies in poland to have seen the communists in poland, to have been through that terrible thing with the manson killing, to have continued to produce these extraordinary films, he's
very well-read. all around in a kind of shrewdness, i think he's in a league of his own among people as i have met anyway. >> rose: high praise from you, because you know almost everybody. >> well, yes. and then i write bad things about them rses but you learned enough about writing screenplays from roman and that experience and now for the movie on the fear index are you going to do it all alone, solo. >> well, yes, until they bring someone else in. >> rose: which is what they do. >> but i am very blessed with hopefully it looks as though paul green grass will direct it who did you know the bourne movies. >> the second and third. >> second and third, right. and the united '93. and he's a great filmmaker. >> rose: good luck to you, great to see you again. >> thank you some of. katherine boo is here. she writes for "the new yorker" magazine. she has just written a new book set in india.
it is called behind the beautiful forevers, life, hope and death in a mumbai undercity. booth's first book has already saved much praise, "the new york times" says comparing to dickens is not unwarranted. boo previously won a pulitzer for her earlier work at the "washington post". mi pleased to have her here at this table for the first time. welcome. >> thank you, charlie. >> rose: tell me how you came to this story. >> well, it's for an unrecognized feminist like myself it's a little embarrassing to say t was really a labor of love. i met my husband in 2001. >> rose: he's indian. >> he's indian. and before i knew t the first night i met him i knew that if i saw him again i knew my life was going to change, completely. in a way i didn't want it to change but it did. and suddenly i was spending, you know, all the time that we had in india, which was changed beyond recognition already. after ten years of economic liberallization. and one of the things that i
felt was-- there were so many contradictions. like the cities were prospering or condominiums and beautiful restaurants and great roads and immense wale. but also 60% of people still lived in slums. that was a growing number. not a shrinking one. and you had this country that was really dizzy with circulating money. but it still had a third of the poverty on the planet. and so those kinds of contradictions attracted me after so long of writing about poverty in the united states. >> rose: two things served you well here. which is your reporterial skills that include writing, and also your commitment to, foreign durns. i mean this was, as you said, a labor of love to do this story. but you had to, i'm not sure what the word is, get inside
people and you had to have them accept you. >> yeah. and it takes patience. because you can't-- most of the people that i write about in india and many of the people i write about in the united states are not glib. they don't spend a lot of time summarizing their worldview to present it to others. for instance, i write about a kid, a 13-year-old scavenger. he collects garbage he finds in the street and sells it by the kilo. and with a kid like that you can't stick a tape recorder in his face and say-- . >> rose: who are you. >> who are you and what do you believe. but you know what is your philosophy. but he has one. it just takes a lot of time seeing him work, talking to him, getting to know the choices he makes to see what that is. and then when you do see it, you can write about it with genuine conviction because it's not something somebody said.
it's the way someone lives their live. >> rose: what did you discover about his philosophy. >> he, for instance, took enormous sustenance in the beauty of the narld world. and even in times when he could have-- we find when he was scavenging, we find flowers. like once he found these purple lotuses in that swampy area of the mumbai airport where he is scavenging, and he found those and he knew he could sell them on the street to people passing by in cars. but instead it was, he kept it as a secret because it was more important to him to know there was this beauty in the world that it was to turn it into something transactional to. take it sell flowers for food. and that's a very, very strong sense of the importance of the natural beauty of the world. which you don't expect to find in a scavenge ferr in the mumbai slums, but it's there. you just have to wait and see. >> who are your principal characters here. >> i talk about a boy named abdul hussein.
he doesn't know how old he is. he is 16 or he's 18. his parents are hopeless-- with dates because when they were raising him, when he was born, they were just fighting every day not to starve. and you just didn't keep track of a kid's age when that was what you were doing. many of the people i write about don't really know their ages. but the thing about abdul is he is this funny, dissident kid, and for months he barely spoke. because all he does day and night is buy and sell and sort recycle-- recyclable garbage. he takes the things that richer people throw a what, an sorts them by materials whether newspaper or plastic bottles and he sells them. his father is ill. and he's been supporting a family of 11 with this labor for most of his childhood. and he is just-- his younger brother is the one that is charming and witty and but
he, he, when i first meet him, he is-- he is actually lifted his family out 6 poverty. he's become through his ability to sort the garbage so quickly, he's become, he's made his family one of the most successful in the whole slum. >> rose: then he runs into huge-- had issue with the judicial system. >> i is famsly accused in a terrible tragedy. but when i first met him i had no idea that this kid who barely spoke was working day and night, i had no idea that his experience was come to take me inside the criminal justice system. and the court system and the public hospitals. of mumbai. but that's what $45. and he ends up being caught up in an enormous web of corruption. >> rose: i hope you can answer this. what do you think your gifts are? what is it you bring to the story? >> somebody, somebody sent
me a review the other day and it said, it said that the writing has, has repper torial humility. and i think there is something to that, i think if you accept the fact that you don't know everything t might not take you very good on television or on a podium. but if you accept the idea that there is a lot that you can learn and you go in without deciding whether globalization is good or bad, or whatever the issue happens to be, and really just patiently take time to find out how-- how issues like globalization which are under-- overtheorized and underreported, how they play out on the ground, i think there can be quite i lum naingt. and i think that is probably my biggest gift. >> rose: some have said and i have said sometimes it's more important not to try to
prove something but to learn something. >> yeah. i agree, fully. and i have the luxury of time. >> rose: what was the hardest thing about telling these stories? >> the hardest thing at first was to find a translator who would work in the same style as i worked. you know, there was a time where i-- i had translators who really just wanted to get in and out and like let's get the sound bite and leave. and i was like no, no that's not the way i work. and i also work early in the morning and late, late at night. and i, instead of interviewing people, i follow them where they go. and so it was hard to -- dish mean some of where we went, like we were-- we were following children who were thieves. they robbed recycling bins at the incredibly glamorous mumbai airport so that meant going, you know, late, late at night around the around as they stole things.
and not everybody really wanted to do that. there were easier ways to make a living. >> rose: what do you mean when you say we. >> then i found a woman, a wonderful woman who had an ear and a patient and didn't want to get at the preconceived story but wanted to find out what people really thought. and then we worked together for what is coming on four years. >> rose: i want to come to some of the other characters and especially some of the female ca,. tell me about then. >> well, i will tell you this about, as a reader, i spent a lot of time in mumbai before i started thinking i should report a book of my own. but one of the things that really troubled me is there were some astonishing, in film and in books, there were some astonishing portraits of women. but almost all of them were prostitutes or exotic dancers. and i thought where in this-- it just seemed me such a lopsided kos moss, like where in this universal, where are the women who are not prostitutes. where are the children? and not just children as cute little, you know, flies
in your eyes portraits of happy children. but children who as we know are complicated, and interesting individuals. and so i felt well, if nothing else, i can try to bring the lives, including the domestic lives of women into better focus. and you know, women in their complexity as mothers, as wives, as workers. and i think, i think that's one of the things. >> rose: and the most interesting one you met? >> to shall two. >> rose: two of them. >> yeah. but perhaps the most interesting woman i met. >> rose: fatima was one. >> yeah, yeah. fatima is-- was a disabled woman. >> rose: who beat people over the head with her crutches. >> she had no time for-- she knew what the charitable types wanted out of their
disabled people like thank you, thank you. i so appreciate it. she just, she-- she, her parents had shunned her. they kept her in the house growing up. and they were so ashamed of her. and by the time she got to adulthood, she was sick of being sorry for her existence. and everybody called her the one leg. nobody even knew her real name. but she decided i'm going to be treated like a human being. i'm going put on lipstick. i want to be considered attractive. i want to be respected so when people didn't respect her, the crutches would-- come and she was strong in her arms so she just, you know, she could really knock the hell out of people. >> rose: yeah. and the other woman that interested you the most was -- >> was a woman named ashaa. i met asia and her daughter together. and her daughter is the kind of young woman that you never read about when you read a book about the slums. i met her when i first met
her she was living and still living in a hut by this enormous sewage lake. and she was memorizing the way of the world and mrs. dallaway which is quite the plot summary for that. and she was the first college-going girl in all of the slum. and she was generous and sensitive and in her free time she taught the poor students in the slums. sometimes she taught them the plot summaries for things like othello. but so what interested me is that her mother was, had been born dirt-poor in rural-- which is one of the most impoverished or most famous of the impoverished rural district in india where farmer suicides are a fact of life. and i thought how did this woman born here, raise a daughter like this. and her husband was an alcoholic who didn't work so
what did she do to give her daughter a future that was so much better than any other woman in the slum. >> rose: let me move finally to this broader picture of india, this country you have -- country you've come to know and this country which is obviously playing an increasingly powerful role in the world because of its increasing wealth and growth rate and its technology and all of those things. >> right. >> rose: what is its challenge. >> what is interesting to me and part of what i try to lay out in this book in addition to just telling the stories of the people who live there, is there is some amazing intellectual policy sophistication. and real hard thinking at the top levels of the government about how to bring more people into this growth story. which is one of the most astonishing growth stories in the history of modern global capitalism. but the good people at the m.i.t. poverty lab call it
the last mile problem. when you talk about implementation, when you talk about accountability. i want to fall asleep on the table. these are eye glazing worlds. but the crucial question i think is how do you take these important ideas and make sure that at least some of what you try to do for the least advantaged people actually gets to them and doesn't just become another way to circulate money among the cities elite. >> congratulations. >> thank you so much. >> rose: well congratulations. >> thanks. >> rose: this is a remarkable achievement. >> it's so nice to be talking to you. >> rose: thank you.